AftershockJuly 22, 2010
The epic story of a family separated as a result of the Great Tangshan Earthquake of 1976.
Release Year: 2010
Rating: 7.4/10 (3,229 voted)
Stars: Daoming Chen, Chen Li, Yi Lu
In Tangshan, the truck driver Da Qiang, his wife Yuan Ni and their twin Fang Da and Fang Deng are a happy simple family. On 27 July 1976, a devastating earthquake destroys Tangshan, and Da Qiang dies while trying to rescue his children from their apartment. When a collapsed beam traps Fang Da and Fang Deng, Yuan Ni is forced to decide between saving her son or daughter and she chooses Fang Da. However, her daughter Fang Deng overhears her mother's choice and miraculously survives. She is rescued by a soldier and adopted by Mr. Wang and his wife with the name Wang Deng. Thirty-two years later, after an earthquake in China, Wang Deng that is married with a Canadian lawyer and lives in Vancouver with her daughter, travels to China and voluntarily joins the rescue team. She meets by chance Fang Da and she leans the drama of Yuan Ni along all those years. The family is finally reunited at Yuan Ni's home where bitterness are exposed and resolved.
Writers: Wu Si, Ling Zhang
Young Fang Deng
Young Fang Da
Wang Deqing (Deng's Foster Father)
Dong Guilan (Deng's Foster Mother)
Wang Zhiguo's Wife
23 seconds, 32 years.
Release Date: 22 July 2010
Box Office Details
(29 August 2010)
Did You Know?
In Japan, the movie, based on the 1976 Tangshan earthquake, was originally scheduled for nationwide release on 26 March 2011, but the distributor Shochiku has postponed the release "in view of the devastation caused by the earthquake [and tsunami that occurred on 11 March] and out of consideration for the victims and their families."
When Fang Da and his girlfriend are driving along the freeway, the year is stated to be 1995 but there is clearly visible a MY 2005 VW Jetta through the driver side window.
A Nutshell Review: Aftershocks
In some ways, Aftershock as a big budgeted epic sort of plays out like
Feng Xiaogang's Assembly, with the money shots concentrated in the
first few minutes, followed by a masterful treatment of human drama
against an historical backdrop of events in China. As a fan of Feng's
films thus far, he continues to show that he's equally adept in
handling commercial, studio tentpole films like this one, and smaller,
more intimate films like If You Are The One, dealing with equal ability
a cast of plenty, or just a handful.
Aftershock cuts to the chase and puts the audience smack into 1976
Tangshan, China, just about when the big quake struck. We're introduced
to a family of four, where soon enough Mother Nature's unforeseen wrath
swallows up the entire city, and shattering countless of lives and
families in the process. What follows will set the stage for the entire
two more hours to come, where Yuan Ni (Xu Fan) has to make that
Sophie's Choice of which twin for the rescuers to save – son Da Feng,
or daughter Fang Deng – since a beam separates the two. Tradition,
culture and custom will unfortunately make this a no-brainer when push
comes to shove, coupled with the fact that the death of her husband in
rescuing her, and her role as the dutiful wife to ensure the
preservation of the family line, but worst, this decision is made
within earshot of Fang Deng who's fighting for her life in the rubble.
Heaven's compassion means Fang Deng survives the ordeal nonetheless,
but gets picked up by a PLA soldier and sent to a survivor's camp,
where she gets adopted into a foster family (Chen Jin and Chen Daoming
in excellent form here as foster mom and dad respectively). The
narrative then tangents into two halves, one following the grown up Da
Feng (Li Chen), and the other Fang Deng (Zhang Jingchu), in their
trials and tribulations of growing up in China in the last 30 years,
interspersed with shots of a growingly vibrant Tangshan (and other
cities of China) where we see the economic development of the country.
However, Nature still is that unfortunate leveller, and for all the
technological advancement, human emotions and a mother's love still
continue to form the basis of a heart-wrench when dealt with an unfair
card in life.
Based upon a novel, What works here are the many small subplots that
get introduced, such as teenage romance, filial piety, and essentially
the all important theme of family, that merges well with the inclusion
of landmark events such as Chairman Mao's death, and another more
recent quake that brings characters together. What more, all the cast
members gave stellar performances (Save for the token Caucasian) that
will tug at your heartstrings, and enable the melodramatic, emotional
finale to be all the more powerful as we come to learn how bitterness
and hatred accumulated over the years, can dissipate with the passage
of time, and the opportunity presented to seek forgiveness.
Which somehow the editing seemed to give way under the weight of
emotions, and introduced some abrupt cuts away from scenes you'd think
will linger for a more emotional closure. However, art direction from
costuming to sets here are superb in capturing the look and feel
depicting the different eras from the 70s to the 90s, and brought to
mind other similarly crafted dramas like Heaven Eternal, Earth
Everlasting and Electric Shadow, both films that you should give a
watch as well should you dig powerful dramas like Aftershock.
I can't attest to how great this film would have been on a larger than
life IMAX screen simply because Singapore, for all our record movie
attendance, we still find it not viable to have one (we had one
before), but one thing's for sure, the special effects employed here is
on par with what Hollywood can dish out. While Hollywood can serve
exaggeration for that wow factor (think 2012 where everything falls
apart), Feng employs digital effects prudently to ensure that the
emotional aspect doesn't get neglected. For all the individuals
affected by the Big Quake, one will actually feel for them when they
get pulverized, and it's hard not to be saddened when you realize it's
actually all very futile when the ground beneath you starts swallowing
everything. As one character said in the film, there's no worry if it's
a small quake, and if it's a big one there'll be no escape anyway. It's
this exasperation and resignation from a survivor that succinctly
explains not only the physical scars, but the emotional ones as well
that lingers far longer with the survivors, coming close to becoming
pangs of guilt.
So don't go in expecting a special effects extravaganza like what
Hollywood will do. An earthquake doesn't last for that long, but the
emotional journey of family members set apart by a catastrophic event
goes on for much longer. Aftershock is that film set on the right path
in choosing to focus on this aspect, and delivered a film rich in the
human emotions of pain, distress and suffering. Highly recommended, and
a natural inclusion to the shortlist of this year's best.